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tv   Book Discussion on the Bohemians  CSPAN  May 3, 2014 9:00am-9:46am EDT

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>> this is a highly nuanced portraf the late 1800s. we follow the lives of mark twain, brett hart, charles warren stoddard as they help birth a new wave of literature that was to leave a permanent mark on the american literary canon. ben's portrait beautifully captures the complexity of the
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relationships between the writers and offers a valuable look at post-civil war west coast and provides the kind of perfect medium for the development of bohemia. it is a rich feast of history that really unwinds many different threads. both of the writers and the city that helped host their exploits. ben is the author of another book, the counterfeiter's paradise, which is published by penguin press, and his writing has also appeared in the san francisco chronicle, and he's worked at latham's quarterly. it is a delight and a pleasure to have him with us. welcome, ben tarnoff. [applause] >> thank you for that introduction. and thank you all for coming out tonight. i should tell you, i have a little bit of a flu, so if i get a little warm or if my voice gets a little froggy, you'll have to forgive me. mark twain, when he was here in the 1860s in san francisco
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wrote a very funny sketch called how to cure a cold, and one of the cures was to rub mustard all over your chest. so if things get to that point, i might send someone out for mustard. [laughter] this is my book, "the bohemians," and it tells the story of four young writers in san francisco in the '60s -- 1860s, mark twain, brett hart, charles william stoddard and edith galbraith. one of the things i really looed about this project is that it gave me access to an underknown part of twain's life. i think when we think of twain, we think of the man in the white suit chomping on the cigar with the white hair, the kind of grandfatherly facade. that's really the twain of his last decade with his kind of best work behind him. he's in his 60s and 70s. the twain of my story is the twain of his 20s and 30s when he hasn't really learned to conceal his extreme emotions
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under that grandfatherly facade. he's extremely ambitious, he's vindictive, he's angry, he's vengeful, he's competitive, he's filled with anxiety about money and fear for the future, he's convinced that he's going to end up in the poorhouse, and he's surrounded by these other young writers in san francisco who really form him and mold him to literary maturity. san francisco was a great place to be a writer in the 1860s, and there are a few reasons why. it's very peaceful, so the civil war is tearing apart the rest of the country. san francisco, this is no fighting reaches the coast. and the draft is never applied west of iowa and kansas. so it's a great place to sit out the war. it's also a very rich city. it's the industrial, financial and commercial center of the far west. and that prosperity finances a range of print publications that sustains a class of professional writers including twain. it's also a very urban city.
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it's got more than 100,000 people when twain is there, which makes it by far the biggest city west of st. louis. and that population is very cosmopolitan which is a legacy of the gold rush. you've got chinese, europeans from all different countries, south americans, mexicans, australians, you name it. the last reason that san francisco so conducive to the literary scene is its isolation. it's pretty hard to reach san francisco from the eastern united states. and that gives a kind of buffer to the culture, let's the city incubate its own idiosyncratic, cultural spirit that really guides twain and the rest of the bohemians. so i thought i would begin just at the beginning, read a little bit of the introduction and then introduce you to these four characters.
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the civil war began with an outburst of patriotic feeling on both sides and the belief that a few battles would result in a swift victory. it ended with the death of 750,000 soldiers and a nation shaken to its core. the wise men of an earlier era found themselves entirely unequal to the crisis. the great political and military leaders of the past, 'em -- 'em anyoneses both born in the priest century went into -- previous century went into forced retirement while younger, more modern minds rose to the challenge. the civil war destroyed old assumptions and rewarded radically new thinking. it triggered a cultural upheaval comparable to the one wrought a century later by the vietnam war, a national trauma that made an older generation suddenly obsolete and demanded novelty, innovation, experimentation. the 1860s was bloody, bewildering and, if you managed to survive, a magnificent time
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to be a young american. if america belonged to the young, then its future lay in the youngest place in america, the far west. the pioneers who settled it were overwhelmingly young and untethered from traditional society, they built a new world without the benefit of their parents' counsel. if their encampments often reeled with excess, they also offered opportunities unlike any that might be found in the colleges and counting houses of the east. these new americans with the tan-faced children of walt whitman's poem pioneers, o pioneers, the vanguard of democracy. when whitman looked west, he didn't see a place, he saw an idea rooted in a mystical tradition as old as the country itself. thomas jefferson had been its founding prophet. he and his disciples believed that american civilization would march unevident my toward the pacific, and that the continent's limbless supply -- limitless supply of land -- [inaudible]
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of course, the reality was often more complicated. the region contained land that resisted cultivation and indians who resisted extermination. but as the line of settlement inched steadily forward past the alleghenies, then the mississippi, hen the rockies, the jeffersonian dream of a west ward empire of liberty began to look like prof my. even henry -- prophesy. even henry david thorough felt drawn in a western direction. the future that lies that way to me, he wrote, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side. mark twain was born in 1835 and reached young adulthood at the best possible time, just as the country embarked on the most extraordinary period of change in its history. he was a westerner by birth, raised on the missouri frontier. the outbreak of the civil war forced him farther west as he fled the fighting in his native state for the region beyond the rockies. there he found another frontier,
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and a social experiment unlike any in the country. in 1848 the discovery of gold in california had triggered a swift influx of people from all corners of the world. as the gateway to the gold rush, san francisco went from a drowsy backwater to a booming global seaport. mostly the newcomers were young, single men. they hadn't come to stay, but to get rich and get out. they erected tents and wooden hovels, makeshift structures that made easily kindling for the city's frequent fires. they lived among the cultures of five continents, often condensed into the space of a single street. by the time twain got there, san francisco still roared. it was densely urban, yet unmistakably western, isolated yet cosmo pollan, crude yet cultured. the city craved spectacle, whether on the gas-lit stages of its many theaters or in the package genre of its streets. its wide open atmosphere endeared it to the young and to
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the odd, to anyone seeking refuge from the overcivilized east. it had an acute sense of its own history and a pagannish appetite for myth making and ritual. even as the gold rush waned and the miner shanties became banks and restaurants and boutiques, the city didn't slow to a more settled rhythm. rather, it financed the opening of new frontiers in nevada, idaho and elsewhere and leaped from one bonanza to the next. its citizens spent lavishly on feasts, on imported fashions and furnishings. they drank seven bottles of champagne for every one drunken boston. they kept the frontier spirit of the city alive. they also sustained a thriving publishing culture. california was always crawling with scribblers. the first generation wrote the story of the gold rush themselves in letters and diaries and the pages of the newspapers they started as soon as they arrived. san francisco's printing presses
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cranked out pamphlets, periodicals and books, relieving the loneliness and boredom of the frontier. by the 1860s the city had spawned an extraordinary literary scene, a band of outsiders called the bohemians. twain joined their ranks, and the encounter would shape the entire current of his life. so the first time twain comes to san francisco is the spring of 1863, and he's been living in virginia city, nevada, at the time working as a journalist for a local paper called "the territorial enterprise." the reason twain comes west originally is to avoid the civil war, because when the civil war breaks out in 1861, he is working on the mississippi as a steam boat pilot, and the war shuts down traffic. so he's out of a job. and the other problem is that in missouri at the time you have draft agents from both the confederate and union sides going door to door, pressing young men into service. so he has to get out of missouri.
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and he has an opportunity when his brother is appointed secretary to the territorial governor of nevada. so the two of them, sam, sam clemens as he was known before he took on the pseudonym, and orion, his brother, got on the stagecoach and went west. and then in the spring of 1863, twain visits san francisco for the first time. san francisco is the place to spend money in the west if you have it. so he's coming to the big city from the mining boomtown, and he's looking for a good time. what people remembered best about him, aside from his red brows and rambling gait, was his strange way of speaking, a drawl that spun syllables slowly like fallen branches op the surface of a stream. printers transcribed it with hyphens and dashes, trying to render rhythms so complex they could have been scored as sheet music. he rasped and droned, lapsed into long silences, soared in the swinging, the enor -- tenor
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inherited from the slave songs of his childhood. he remained dreadfully imperially serious. he mixed the factual and fictitious in proportions too obscure for even his closest friends to decipher. he was prickly, vindictive, a personality as impenetrably vast as the west and as prone to seismic outburst. he was samuel clemens before he became mark twain n. the spring of 1863, he made a decision that brought him one step closer to the fame he craved. on may 2, 1863, mark twain boarded a stagecoach bound for san francisco. the trip from virginia city, nevada; to the california coast promised more than 200 miles of jolting terrain, sleepless nights spent corkscrewing through the sear rahs and alkali dust so thick it caked the skin. twain, at 27, already had more interesting memories than most
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men twice his age. he had piloted steam boats on the mississippi, roamed his native missouri with band of confederate guerrillas, and taken the overland route to the territory of nevada that was named after a local indian tribe. now he fell in love with the first and only metropolis of the far west. after the deserts, he later wrote san francisco was paradise to me. its grandeur and festivity exhilarated him, and he gorged himself with abandon. he drank champagne in the dining room of the lick house, a palatial haunt of high society. he toured the pleasure gardens on the outskirts of town. he met a pretty girl named jeannie who snubbed him when he said hello. he rode to the beach and listened to the roaring surf and put his toes in the pacific. on the far side of the continent, he felt the country's vastness. he hadn't planned to stay long,
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but a nonstop itinerary of eating, drinking, sailing and socializing kept him too busy to bear the thought of leaving. in mid may he wrote his mother and sister to say he would remain for another ten days, two weeks at the most. by early june, he was still in san francisco, had switched lodgings and showed no signs of slowing his pace. i am going to the dickens mighty fast, he wrote, a taunt aimed squarely at his devoutly calvinist mother. the city offered many after-dark amusements, gambling dens and girly shows, and twain rarely returned home before midnight. he was never at a loss for companionship. he reckoned he knew at least a thousand of the city's 115,000 residents, mostly friends from nevada. the city's main thoroughfare, montgomery street, where crowds and carriages swarmed under gleaming facades, reminded him of his hometown. spring turned to summer, and still twain hadn't left.
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dreading the inevitable, he clung on as long as he could. it seems like going back to prison to go back to the snows and deserts, he complained. in july he finally said farewell. he had been away from nevada for two months. even after he settled back into the sagebrush on the dry side of the sierras, the city lingered in his mind. over the course of the next year, he would find many reasons to return; first to visit, then to live.wñç5hj!xiñi he would chronicle its quirks and hurt the feelings of not a few of its citizens. in exchange, san francisco would mold him to literary maturity. it would inspire his evolution from a provincial scribbler into a great american writer, from3 hannibal's samuel clemens into america's mark twain. so twain continues to visit san francisco, and then he decides to move there permanently in the spring of 1864. when he does, he comes into contact with brett hart who is the city's leading literary figure. and two of them are going -- the
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two of them are going to form a very complicated love/hate relationship that will continue beyond san francisco. brett hart liked to be looked at. that season, as summer fog cooled the city, he might be seen in a stylish overcoat sporting a lamb collar brightened by a solicitous flash of color, a crimson necktie, perhaps, that set him apart from the rabble. every fold, every fabric of the young man's outfit would be carefully arranged. on montgomery street, he footed through the human foliage. if your eyes happened to meet his, he would smile. if he spoke a few words in greeting, his voice would be agreeable. but there would be nothing to remind one of mark twain. he preferred to be admired from afar. and there was much to admire. at 26 hart had become the leading literary light of the pacific coast.
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no small feat in a state where even the shaggiest miner aspired to barthood, and poets were pop stars, declaring verses to crowds at public gatherings. hart had powerful friends, a wife and an infant son. his evenings didn't involve drunken romps of the virginia city variety, they centered on more domestic concerns like how to keep baby griswold from disturbing his study or his wife from dragooning him into household chores so he might have a couple of quiet hours to write. this shy, soft-spoken dandy must have seemed like an odd choice. he didn't wield an axe or a revolver. he ridiculed the region's most cherished myths, especially the cult of the pioneer. he hates philistines, sentimentalists and hypocrites and felt that california had all three in abundance. where others saw progress, he saw decline. few things escaped the corrosive touch of his subtler reverence
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as his friend, william dean howells, later observed. but hart wasn't just a destroyer. if he often felt disillusioned with california, or this was because he saw its true potential as an infinitely original civilization with its own unique history and habits, a singular fraternity of spaniards, mexicans, chinese, europeans, australians, indians and americans living free from the trammells of precedent on the far edge of the world. here was the real, genuine america trumpeted by walt whitman, a world of raw literary possibility beyond the wildest imaginings of the country's reigning custodians of high culture and just possibly the seeds of a new national literature. the next character i'm going to introduce is charles warren stoddard who's a very, a very shy young man. in 1862 he publishes his first poems in the golden era which is the city's most prestigious
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literary paper of the time. if you'd been standing on clay street where the golden era's offices were at the time, you would have seen him pacing back and forth in front of the office with an envelope with his poem in his hand in a cold sweat waiting until everyone had cleared off, and then he finally would push the envelope through the slot and run away after having spent hours building up the courage. and sure enough, the poem appears in the next edition of the golden era, and he starts writing moreclsx poems and becos connected to this bohemian scene centered on hart and twain and others. so here's stoddard. the shop on montgomery street sold mostly religious books and bibles. inside its clerk was constantly dusting not because he cared much more cleanliness, but because the monotony of the motion made it easier for his mind to wander. as he sank deeper into his day dream, the feather duster in his hands became a palm tree.
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he longed for the tropics. he had fallen in love with them eight years earlier on his way to california. e remembered the syrupy taste of the oranges and the mist that sprayed when he broke their skin. he remembered the bright plumage of the birds, flickering against the relentless green of the jungle. most of all, he remembered the natives who adorned their nearly-naked bodies with necklaces and wreaths. one day california'si& most fas preacher appeared in the doorway, cutting stoddard's reverie short. celebrities had been in the shop before, but never one who would stoddard held in such high esteem. in my youth i was a hero worshiper, and thomas stark king seemed the most heroic of them all. after a probing glance at the trembling clerk, king drew a scrap of newspaper from his pocket. did you write these lines, he asked, pointing to his poems? stoddard said he did. the minister responded by reading them aloud. he added words of encouragement to his favorite lines and
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invited stoddard to visit him with more work. he also presented tickets to his upcoming lecture series on american poetry where he would be discussing those distinguished new england poets whom stoddard had read as a schoolboy. then he vanished. i was left speechless with wonder and delight, stoddard recalled. at first glance the young poet might have reminded king of hart. both were slender and delicately built. both had large, expressive eyes not unlike king himself. but hart wrote painstakingly while stoddard's penmanship spills merrily down the page. hart kept most people at a distance. stoddard held onto them for dear life. stoddard was deeply lovable, hart was not. what people loved best about stoddard was his vulnerability, his yearning for success, his dread of failure, the pain he felt when criticized and the pleasure he felt when praised. these are the emotional undertow of any writer's life, and he experienced them more openly
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than most. twain concealed his insecurities with bravado and wit. hart hid behind a fast did yous exterior, yet stoddard aired his passions in public, and they all loved him for it. this was the true source of what was called his invincible charm, the all-conquering warmth that made people lower their defenses. they saw their struggles reflected in stoddard's child-like face. there would always be one part of his personality they couldn't possibly understand, however, his homosexuality. like hart, he endured abuse from schoolyard bullies because he looked too feminine. unlike hart, he pursued close relationships with certain boys for whom he felt an especially deep devotion. these chums and pals rarely reciprocated his affections, and as a child he came to expect their rejection, even to take a kind of pleasure in it. he loved being in love. the love man, jack london
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christened him many years later. yet for someone who found solace in the written word, he lived in a world with no words for what he was. gay love was not only forbidden, but invisible. never plainly discussed. the last character to introduce is ena coolbraith. by the time ena is 21, she has endured a lifetime worth of tragedy. she actually was born in illinois, and her father dies when she's very young. her uncle is joseph smith who is the founder of mormonism. so she grows up in an atmosphere of violent persecution. the more mormons -- mormons were really terrorized at this point in the midwest. she and her mother and her stepfather and the rest of her siblings decide to go west to california, and they end up settling in los angeles where ena marries a man who's very abusive, who actually tries to kill her.
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so they go through this terrible divorce, and ena also gives birth to a child that dies. so all this happens by the time she's 21. it's 1862. the family decides to move to san francisco to bury her past and start over. and she starts to write poems and publish them in the golden era where everyone else is writing. and this brings her into contact with people like stoddard and hart and twain. and the timing is very good because just as she is emerging in the san francisco literary scene, the bohemians have decided to start their own paper, that the golden era has been good so far, but they need something of their own. they really need their own forum, and this marks a kind of new moment in the literary evolution of the west. building a better paper would bring twain, hart and stoddard closer together. they went from being acquaintances to friends, from colleagues in the era's crowded firmament to co-conspirators in a literary crusade of their own. another writer joined them, ena.
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she had stayed mostly out of sight since relocating from los angeles in 1862. she taught english at a language school from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon and then returned home to help her mother wash disturbs, scrub linens -- dishes, scrub linens and do the rest of the domestic work. she had trouble sleeping at night, persecuted by memories of her past. by the age of 22, she had endured an abusive husband, a humiliating divorce and the death of her infant child. she remained wary of what she called an unpitying world and wrote bitter verses about suffering the shafts of enmity and scorn. yet she needed a way out beyond grief, beyond the burleds of her dreary work and demanding family. in san francisco she would find friends, fulfillment and, finally, a life worth living. she first met stoddard at the home of a mutual friend, a slender, delicate, handsome figure playing dreamily at the piano, his fingers skipping confidently across the keys,
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improvising a tune. this was how she remembered him some 60 years later. we were little more than boy and girl, she recalled. he was only 20, but his success had been swift. he no longer put poems in the era's mailbox and ran away in a cold sweat. he was now a fixture of bohemian san francisco, petted and spoiled by everyone because of his youth, his physical beauty, magnetic personality, she remembered. it helped that he looked the part. the ideal poet in appearance, she wrote, as beautiful as shelley. especially poetic were his frequent mood swings, his soul-expiring size. like the other friendships that formed what ena later called the tribe, the bond between her and stoddard took time to develop. eventually, they became like brother and sister. ena threatening to box his ears for some silliness, stoddard acting puppyish and coy. stoddard would always strike others as childlike, confined to the solaces of a permanent adolescence.
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ena would always appear too mature for her years, having lived a lifetime by her early 20s. neither would ever enjoy the comforts of a conventional momentum hood. both -- adulthood. they never started families of their own, but they remained close their entire lives. the friendship between us has been more to me than the love of any man, she once told to him. in december 1863ena published her second poem in the era. it instruct a hopeful -- struck a hopeful note, growing to its slow, yet sure fulfillment. she was steadily emerging from her shell, just in time to take part in california's latest literary experiment. in recent weeks the era had been buzzing with talk of a new periodical. brett and i laid our heads together over a mint julep, the other day, and have determined to start a paper. they shared a single purpose; to wage all-out war on mediocrity, materialism and the middle brow.
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they deplored california's depraved intellectual condition, its preponderance of nervous old dandies and silly young girls, its taste for clumsy melodrama and moralizing. the time had come for a new kind of journal, more discriminating in tone. the era had been a good start, but the bohemians had outgrown it. they needed a platform of their own. so the story continues, and i wish i had more time to keep reading. but i thought i would stop there and open it up to questions. so thank you for listening. [applause] yes, sir. >> i would like, i mean, i really -- i got this book a couple of weeks ago, and i haven't finished it, but i've been very impressed by what you wrote. i wanted to ask you how did you get involved with mark twain and all of this? and, i mean, because i read mark twain when i was a teenager, and
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i read tom sawyer and huckleberry finn. i never read king arthur, i never read innocence abroad, but i read essays, and i knew that mark twain was involved in many different things like the anti-imperialist league, a lot of different -- so i was just curious where your, what's -- i mean, because it's an excellent book. >> thank you. >> i really deeply appreciate. >> well, i think for me i always wanted to write about san francisco. i was always fashion international airported about -- fascinated about california history, and many of us who grew up in san francisco had a vague sense twain spent time here, but we're not really sure how much time. and it turns out, you know, as i learned more about how much time he spent here and how formative those years had been for him, i realized that was the story i wanted to write. in particular, you mentioned the twain of he can finn and tom -- huck finn and tom sawyer, i think that twain is better known to us. it's kind of the twain that we
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think of in our mind's eye whereas this twain was a kind of stranger, and it fascinated me that his emotions were so much closer to the surface, and to see him in this kind of embryonic phase where, you know, his emotions are a bit more, treatment, and the fundamental aspects of his style are starting to come together. to me, that was really fascinating. and i think, you know, the california context, for me, that was a big plus. yeah.?wsp'1 any other questions? yes, sir. >> first off, thank you. really appreciated the reading and the book. i have a question about stoddard, actually, and i was stod+áu know, given thati was san francisco has long been a bastion of gay rights and gay literature and culture, what has been the reception, you know, over the past century or so of stoddard, and has he been claimed as kind of a precursor to, you know, the life of a castro or, you know, how would you describe his reception later
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on? >> i think he is. i think he's been rediscovered, basically, as kind of a forefather of gay san francisco. it's tough though, because, you know, as i mentioned thezx[ pase that i read, the word gay is, obviously, not one that would have been current in him, and it's not even clear how fully he kind of verbalizes his own sexuality to himself. he has this correspondence with walt whitman, and he says at one point walt whitman's not replying to his letters, and at one point he says in the name of cal miss, reply to me. poems that walt whitman wrote about homosexuality. there are these attempts to use metaphor and symbols and images to describe homosexuality but not quite naming it. another favorite phrase of whitman's is an adhesive temperament which he inherits from phrenology, and whitman says to stoddard, i recognize in you an adhesive temperament.
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so there are coded ways to describe it. but homosexuality kind of as a, the way we would think of it now is not really current for stoddard. but that doesn't prevent us from being able to claim him as a pioneer, certainly. yeah. another question? sir. >> you're examining the characters with a, like, heavy emphasis on the cultural context of the time, right? the gold rush, young men flocking to the city to kind of earn a fortune, then get out, the enormous wealth that's running through the city and the accompanying decadence. obviously, there are close analogs to today, right? [laughter] people talk about the second gold rush, be it tech and stuff. were you writing that in mind, with the current situation in mind? >> i think it sneaks into it. i mean, i haven't lived in the city for ten years. i live in new york now. but i return a lot, and i came back a lot to research it. and i think that that inevitably did shape my thinking kind of
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sub consciously. i don't -- unfortunately, though, i don't have any great things to say about those parallels. i mean, i think there is something, obviously, reminiscent of the gold rush in the current tech revolution. certainly what it does to rents and prices which i think you saw pack in the day as well. -- back in the day as well. but, you know, one thing that, the thing that i've thought about a lot and haven't come up with a very good answer is that the prosperity in san francisco in the 1860 really finances its literary scene. that because it's such a rich city, you can have so many newspapers, and people have the leisure time to read them. if you go into the library of congress for 1860 to 1870, you find more than 300 different papers published in san francisco over that period in english, mandarin, german, french, you name it. so that really allows a lot of people to make a living on writing. and that's really how this literary scene comes together. so i'm not sure what the
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parallel would be today, whether the prosperity now would sustain another literary scene, i don't know. it's harder to know. i suspect people in this room have very strong feelings about that. [laughter] yes, sir. >> i don't know if this is getting too beyond -- >> stand up. >> i don't know if this is getting too beyond the historical period you're addressing here, but i'm curious with all this how it might have affected ambrose bierce. because he was here, and it wasn't that much later, i think. >> yes. i love a.m. bros bierce, and he initially, when i was thinking about this book, he was going to be the fifth character, and i had to cut him out because he doesn't get to the city until after the end of the civil war. he actually does participate in this bohemian moment, but it's really towards the end. he's friends with all of them and publishes in the overland monthly which is the kind of
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periodical that brett hart edits and which is really kind of the height of bohemian san francisco. but bierce is a major figure in this period and, obviously, he stays on later than many of these people do. i mean, twain, hart and stoddard all leave the city, but bierce remains. but he's a wonderful figure, and i think he is -- if you wanted to find a bridge between the kind of 1860s san francisco literary scene and later decades, he's really the ideal link between those worlds. i wish i was able to write more about him in the book. >> [inaudible] >> yeah, that'd be great. yes. >> [inaudible] i wonder if you could just talk about style a little bit. if you think, you know, they had a manifesto, do you feel like they shared a style sensibility, aesthetic, did they invent something new as a bunch of san francisco writers felt self-conscious about what they
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were doing? >> it's a good question. i think that weirdly enough people in the east were more aware or at least more articulate in describing what they were doing than they were, that hart and twain in particular were not very good at describing what's revolutionary about their own style. but someone like william dean howells who is a young editor at the atlantic monthly and really offers a gateway for these san francisco writers to enter kind of new england literary establishment. howells is very perceptive about why these writers represent a break from the past, what they're drawing on in the frontier, this kind of rich irony, this rambling flow, the use of dialect and slang, that howells is looking at that and seeing as he calls ther ens of a new -- earnest of a new american literature which, for him, is necessary to bring it out of its provincial new england origins, and that's really howells'
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crusade. he was a valuable resource for me trying to understand what was revolutionary about their style. but i think as many artists, they're not always articulate about their own work. yes, sir. >> so in the introduction you briefly mentioned the parallel between the civil war and the vietnam war, you know, a hundred years apart in reference to and east geography and how that influenced the literature at the time. and i was wondering if you elaborated on that further in the book or if you wanted to mention that a further now. >> well, i think that's -- i mean, the cultural revolution represented by the civil war is really central to the book. and i think it's, you can see it in a lot of different ways. i mean, the 1860s is this period in america where all of the rules are being rewritten in warfare and politics and business, in literature. it's really when kind of conventional wisdom of all kinds just kind of runs up against
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this new, modern reality. and, you know, i can think of kind of dozens of examples which i go into a little bit here, but i think that there is a parallel between that and what happens the following century. you know, specifically this idea of a younger generation that is rejecting the kind of traditions and the inherited wisdom of an older generation. that's happening very dramatically in america of the 1860s, and particularly in the west. because as i mentioned in the book, the west is predominantly young. everyone is really young in the west. so the west is really the laboratory where that new america's being created. any other questions? sir. >> the one thing that i was thinking about is when you look back and you have the historical context, it becomes either obvious or at least you can, you know, make a case that a certain set of writers was either, you know, revolutionary or the voice of their generation.
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i guess i'm kind of curious, is it obvious while it's happening, or did mark twain, you know, see himself that way? and, i guess, kind of a corollary to that, would we be able to see where that was happening today, or would we not know for 30 years? >> it's a good question. i think we won't know for 30 years. i think you really need the virtue of hindsight in that situation. and as i mentioned before, you know, the writer himself or herself is not a great authority on subject of what's most interesting or revolutionary about their work. twain himself, i talk a lot about jim smiley and his jumping frog which is a sketch that twain writes in 1865 when he's here in san francisco, and i feel is really a kind of birth moment for his style and for his later literary innovations. but he himself has a very conflicted kind of ambivalent relationship towards it. he doesn't really see it necessarily that way, and it's really only with decades of hindsight and later works like huckleberry finn and tom sawyer that you can kind of track back
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and say this is actually where it began. so in terms of the contemporary scene, i think we probably won't know for 30 years, unfortunately. we'll have to wait. any other questions? yes. >> how do you think the whole history of the literature and what they were writing relates to the history or the evolution of vigilantism in san francisco? >> well, vigilantism was a major force if san francisco history -- in san francisco history, particularly in the 1850s. there are these two vigilante uprisings in the 1850s which are, essentially, as they're presented the kind of respectable citizens of san francisco cleaning up the town by taking justice into their own hands and lynching criminals, and particularly in 1856 they hang two noted criminals and actually control the city for a period of time. by the time these writers are
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working, that phase is kind of behind san francisco. the 1860s san francisco has matured a bit. i mean, no longer quite the rough and tumble frontier town it was before. i mean, you still have the brothels, but they're not right out in the plaza. they're a little bit farther back. you know, all of the same activities are happening, but they've been forced to become a little bit more discreet. and the kind of rampant lawlessness that you read about in a book called "barbary coast" where you hear about the sydney ducks and these australian thuggings, i mean, it's -- thugs, i mean, it's fantastic reading. but by the time the bohemians arrive, that moment has mostly passed. so i wouldn't say it plays an enormous role in their work. any other questions? >> i'm sure the research into this was enormous in the many sources, but if you could, is there a top three or four that you have that come to your mind as sources of research that you
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went to for this book? >> well, i'd say 70% roughly of the research happened at the bancroft in berkeley. and it was just invaluable. i mean, the twain stuff, you know, twain, there's such great scholarship around twain. you can go to mark twain and see all of his letters from, i think, until 1881, and, you know, there are wonderful editions of his correspondence. so when it comes to researching twain, it's actually pretty straightforward. i think with these other characters i had to deep a little bit deeper into the archives because their work, you know, particularly ena and charles warren stoddard, thai just not as widely known. so that was kind of a little bit more of the detective work, which i really enjoyed. but the bancroft had most of it. i was also in l.a. at the huntington, at the san francisco public library, the oakland public library, but i was mostly in bly.
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yeah. -- berkeley. yeah. any other questions if -- any other questions? all right. well, thank you so much for having me. [applause] and i'll be here signing books, so if you want your book signed, i'll be right here. thank you for coming. [inaudible conversations] >> for more information, visit the author's web site, >> and the biggest challenge especially in the house where, obviously, where redistricting is where -- that's where it occurs, in the house the biggest challenge that a republican is going to face is from in a primary from somebody more conservative than he or she is. and almost every district that's the case. so that's what they're worried about. they're worried about being challenged from the right.
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so what -- how is it in their political interests to reach across and make tough compromises? i mean, i think we've gotten the system that we designed, you know, as a country. and that -- when we created the -- in fact, i'm not even sure the people who created these districts realized exactly how profound the implications of all of this would be. but i'll just add that to some extent some democrats, particularly minority democrats, have been in on this too. there have been in some states, you know, african-americans who want to be sure that they have reliably african-american districts. not just a democratic district can, but one that has a large percentage of african-americans so that they can be sure that they have representation in congress. >> this weekend on c-span from the anti defamation league, changing demographics: redistricting and the republican party. this morning just after 11 eastern. and later on c-span, the white house correspondents' dinner.
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president obama and joel mchale of nbc's "community" headline the event before celebrities, journalists and the white house press corps. that's live at six. and live sunday on booktv, former gang member, community activist and political candidate luis j. rodriguez will take your calls and comments "in depth" at noon on c-span2. and on american history tv, a industry, sunday night at 9:35 on c-span3.ñr >> tim townsend reports on u.s. army chaplain henry georgia reck key and his assignment to minister to the nazi leaders on trial for crimes against humanity. the author recounts the lutheran minister's many ethical and spiritual conflicts in administering to the 21 nazis as the nuremberg trials and his interactions with the men during and following their trials as they awaited their sentences. this is about an hour.


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